Sunday, April 29, 2007

Nice Shout Out

Brent did a nice shout out about the show in NY I was in.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Swoon In Braddock Part Two

Shots From The Swoon Installation In Braddock

Swoon's show In Braddock did not disappoint and demonstrated an incredibly sensitive integration with her surroundings. The work was a collaboration with two other artist's.

Marci Gerhing Video

I will be posting images and video's of the amazing works of Marci Gerhing, who is having her show right now. These videos don't come close to capturing the intensity of her work, which has to be seen in person.

More Swoon

Careful viewers will likely remember seeing some of these images around Pittsburgh

Swoon Talks About Her Work: Part 2

Friday, April 27, 2007

Swoon Talks About Her Work

Who Would Have Known? Pittsburgh Is # 1

Hopefully Merge doesn't mind me pasting in his post off his blog

Rand McNally's 2007 Places Rated Almanac has been released, and SURPRISE... Pittsburgh is rated #1 in the nation. The last time the city received this status was in 1985. But Pittsburgh is the ONLY city that has been rated in the top twenty in every single edition (falling to its worst 14th-place ranking in 1997). It is the only city rated #1 twice, out of a pool of over 350 metro areas. But what is the criteria? Well... the editors looked at a variety of factors including housing, transportation, jobs, education, climate, crime, health care, recreation and ambience. And what is the key to Pittsburgh's continued success? As publisher David Savageau points out, "It's the triumph of the better than average place. It's not spectacular but it is very good in all of the areas." Certainly that's good news to its inhabitants. We are no one-trick pony.

Once mired in a deep depression after the decline of American steel, the region's economy has refocused itself on education, technology, healthcare, nuclear engineering and financial services. The Wall Street Journal, noting a particular growth in robotics, refers to the city as "Roboburgh". The city has a number of diverse and quirky neighborhoods, many of which seem to be succeeding in their strenuous efforts to improve their identity. Pittsburgh has the lowest property crime rate and a lower-than-average violent crime rate among cities of similar size. There are many quality educational institutions, including the University of Pitsburgh and Carnegie Mellon (both ranked in the tip 25 in their respective categories nationally). The city is very clean and beautiful, and has an incredibly eclectic mix of architecture. And it has more bridges than Venice, Italy.

As I've tried to document on this blog, Pittsburgh also has a thriving arts scene. Internationally known institutions such as the Carnegie, the Warhol, and the Mattress Factory give the Burgh a much needed dose of serious culture. Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, The Frick Art and Historical Center, Phipps Conservatory, Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, The Society for Contemporary Craft, and Pittsburgh Fillmakers all do their part as well. Additionally, the last few years have seen the opening of many quality private galleries, as well as the continued presence of publically funded spaces. And for the masses, there are art parties including the Flux series, seasonal Downtown Art Crawls, and this weekend's Art All Night in Lawrenceville. That's not to mention the numerous smaller functions held in bars, galleries and industrial buildings throughout the year. Opportunities to take classes abound and there are multiple drawing sessions available weekly.

Most of the information about the excellence of the arts scene (here on this blog) has been anecdotal. But American Style Magazine has just named Pittsburgh the #1 destination for the arts among all midsized cities in the nation.

And that's not the end of the accolades either:

Foreign Direct Magazine (an affiliate of London's Financial Times) recently rated Pittsburgh one of the top three "North American Cities of the Future" (among participating cities) ahead of such cities as Boston, Atlanta, Montreal, and Miami. Only Toronto and Chicago fared better. Yet there is a strong caveat with this award- only ten cities in Pittsburgh's subcategory eligible for ranking returned surveys. Still the Burgh received specifically high marks for cost effectiveness and technological infrastructure.

In 2005, The Economist ranked Pittsburgh and Cleveland the top most livable cities in the United States, and tied the cities for 26th world-wide.

In 2006, Expansion Magazine ranked Pittsburgh among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation for climates favorable to business expansion.

It's quite clear that Pittsburgh's status as a "best-kept secret" can't be maintained forever. Eventually the area is going to attract a growing population, and that will result in congestion along with all the typical hassles of a rapidly developing city. There are many inhabitants of our town that are anxious for growth. But part of what makes this place #1 in so many areas is the room people have to move around in. Sure it would be nice to have more wealth flowing into Pittsburgh, but not at the expense of the qualities that make it the "Most Livable City" in the US. Folks should learn to appreciate what they have.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Julianne Swartz : Hope

Image from Josee Bienvenu Gallery

I very much wanted to be in NY for the start of this show and the end of one of the rare ones I am in.

"Josée Bienvenu gallery is pleased to present Julianne Swartz’s second solo exhibition in New York. Swartz’s new work body of work uses sound and movement to articulate an architecture of frailty. The sculptures embody metaphors for tender communication, the fragility of the body, and the vulnerability and potency of the human heart.

The exhibition includes eight kinetic sculptures and three sound works. Made with clock motors, steel wire, and cement, the sculptures carry suspended text, objects or tiny lights. Wire structures amplify and morph the motion of each second passing: measured time becomes figural movement. The carefully calibrated weight and shape of each sculpture draws its movement: awkward, spasmodic, trembling or swaying.

Two sound works build on material Julianne Swartz used earlier this season in Affirmation, a building-wide installation at the Tate Liverpool Museum. Open is a simple wood box with a hinged lid, about the size of an adult torso. Upon opening the lid, numerous voices escape. The voices become louder and louder, until silenced by closing the lid. Body is a network of 24 tiny speakers that sporadically emit barely audible whispering voices.

In the project room, she collaborates with inventor Matteo Ames to compose an installation of multiple music boxes. Through the use of robotics and mechanics, a familiar children’s song gradually becomes a dissonant symphony."

Her work very much trancends words and is about a sensitive and open ended communication between her and the viewer. I like the fact that her gallery felt the same way and planned a soft opening.

Coconut Camera

By Chris Peregoy

Society for Contemporary Craft’s Satellite Gallery at One Mellon Center
Dates: April 27 - June 3, 2007

Presented at the Society for Contemporary Craft’s satellite gallery at One Mellon Center in downtown Pittsburgh (April 27—June 3, 2007), Picture This will feature hand-made cameras created from unusual materials such as, clay, wood, shipping pallets, a cigar box, a spam tin and a coconut among many other found objects. The exhibition is being featured in conjunction with The f295 Symposium on Lensless, Alternative and Adaptive Photographic Processes being held in Pittsburgh April 26-29, 2007.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Happening @Digging Pitt Gallery

Brief notes about upcoming events at Digging Pitt Gallery. You can also stay current with events at Digging Pitt and Digging Pitt Too on the blog and the gallery MySpace.

Pinhole Photography Workshop
April 29, 12-2PM
Join George Kollar, Trever Miller and John Fobes at Digging Pitt Gallery on April 29, Worldwide Pinhole Photography day. George will be conducting a pinhole photography workshop. 12-2pm Free. Please RSVP your interest to Digging Pitt Gallery by email or at 412-605-0450 more information

Flat Out @Unblurred
May 4, 6PM
Digging Pitt Gallery, Trinity Gallery and the Musee' de Monoian will be teaming up for Unblurred in May for a special presentation of art. The table-top show will be housed in the Community Activity Center, one block off of Penn Avenue. May 4, 6-9PM. Free and open to the public. more information

Flat Out @Unblurred
Community Activity Center
113 North Pacific Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Digging Pitt Gallery
4417 Butler Street
Pittsburgh PA 15201
Digging Pitt
Digging Pitt Blog
Digging Pitt on MySpace

Pinhole Photography Workshop @Digging Pitt

Pinhole photography workshop with George Kollar
April 29, 2007: 12:00pm

Join George Kollar, Trever Miller and John Fobes at Digging Pitt Gallery on April 29, Worldwide Pinhole Photography day. George will be conducting a pinhole photography workshop. 12-2pm Free. Please RSVP your interest to Digging Pitt Gallery by email or at 412-605-0450

George Kollar
Pinhole Photography Workshop

George Kollar has been producing work with a pinhole camera for many years. His subject matter ranges from motorcycles to carnivals. In this workshop, George will go over constructing your own pinhole camera. George will supply his expertise and materials for the workshop. The workshop is free. Please RSVP to Digging Pitt Gallery by email or at 412-605-0450.

George Kollar

Time is of the essence. Worldwide Pinhole Photography day is April 29. Anyone, anywhere, that makes Pinhole photography can send it to, which maintains a gallery of lens-less photography. Last year, there were 2267 participants from sixty countries.

What is pinhole photography? It is photography in which a tiny hole is used in place of a lens. Most pinhole camera are home made. The hole is made with a fine needle and household aluminum foil. Some of the cameras are made using cardboard boxes, coffee cans and even fifty-five galleon drums. Today you can purchase any size format pinhole camera to shoot film.

As an independent photographic artist I have experimented with the unique image produce by the pinhole camera. The camera I use is a Zone 2000 film camera, 6x6 format with a pinhole of f/138.

There is an endless supply of information on pinhole photography on the web. Today pinhole has come full circle as fine art photography. Enthusiasts from all parts of the world realize pinhole photography has been revived. I hope to see other pinhole photographers out on world wide pinhole day. Gear up, make a camera and welcome aboard.

Digging Pitt Gallery
4417 Butler Street
Pittsburgh PA
Digging Pitt on MySpace
Digging Pitt blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The First Law Of Petropolitics

These charts illustrate a theory that Thomas L Friedman has thrown out there, he calls "The First Law Of Petropolitics." He's far from being the first one to see an inverse relationship between human freedom and commodity prices in resource based economies, but the elegance of these charts speak volumes.

"The First Law of Petropolitics posits the following: The price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in oil-rich petrolist states. According to the First Law of Petropolitics, the higher the average global crude oil price rises, the more free speech, free press, free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, and independent political parties are eroded. And these negative trends are reinforced by the fact that the higher the price goes, the less petrolist leaders are sensitive to what the world thinks or says about them. Conversely, according to the First Law of Petropolitics, the lower the price of oil, the more petrolist countries are forced to move toward a political system and a society that is more transparent, more sensitive to opposition voices, and more focused on building the legal and educational structures that will maximize their people’s ability, both men’s and women’s, to compete, start new companies, and attract investments from abroad. The lower the price of crude oil falls, the more petrolist leaders are sensitive to what outside forces think of them."

Here's another tidbit-- "As I followed events in the Persian Gulf during the past few years, I noticed that the first Arab Gulf state to hold a free and fair election, in which women could run and vote, and the first Arab Gulf state to undertake a total overhaul of its labor laws to make its own people more employable and less dependent on imported labor, was Bahrain. Bahrain happened to be the first Arab Gulf state expected to run out of oil." He also noticed that the middle east's only democracy other than Israel; Lebanon does not have a drop of oil. Now the theory, does not explain a number of other dictatorships in the region-until you look at the huge tranfers of wealth from the oil rich states. Anyway, it's just a theory.

Old MFA Rants

Here and Here, are some links to a few old rants on MFA shows.

Global RISD @ Winkleman

What does this post about a Providence school having an MFA show at a New York gallery have to do with Pittsburgh? Kids paying for top MFA programs, have an interest in having their efforts seen and in entering the international dialog of the art world. Do you think CMU will ever do something like this?

Even more impressive is that it looks like the kids took things into their own hands by proposing the show themselves."Organized by MFA candidate Cortney Andrews, whose work will be shown along with the photography of candidates Jonathan Cana, Maureen Keaveny, Amy Lovera, Patrick Madigan and Millee Tibbs."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Hill House Soars

We had made kites over the month of March in preparation for a flight festival. We had something like forty blanks, and somehow that wasn't enough! We were at Kennard and Ammens fields and Arcena, which was the designated flight space for adults.

We met in the Hill House lobby, where Bourbon Street Catering had set up a wonderful array of cookies, cheeses and meats. Seriously good cookies. I particularly liked these little butter cookies with raspberry and almonds. Can you tell that I am completely at the mercy of my stomach?

The weather was sunny and warm. The Frustrationless Flyer kites that we used for the project are good in light wind, which is great because we had gusty, light wind in the afternoon. I tested this kite and it goes up really easily, I was able to launch mine with no assistance. I was at Kennard field and I am in love! It was a great place to fly and I can't wait to go back. Next time, I hope there's enough wind to launch my stunt kite.

Images from Kennard Field --

Here are some of the kites that were made during the Community Gallery Project

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pittsburgh Rated Number One Mid Sized Art City

Last year readers of American Style Magazine, ranked Pittsburgh the number three mid sized arts destinations and this year, perhaps due to a little ballot stuffing- we are number one. "Excitement around the city is driven largely by glass-related events, such as the Dale Chihuly exhibition starting next month at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the Glass Art Society international conference in June and related events, according to publisher Wendy Rosen. Pittsburgh also scored points among readers for The Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art and smaller private art galleries."

Well, anyway you slice it, it's hard to argue that readers made a bad choice. The benefit's of cross promoting and branding shows around the glass conference is really likely to pay off. Of course it might pay off better if we had a gallery guide or a bunch of people contributed to an art blog that covered the city or if we had a great online art portal that was attatched to the visit Pittsburgh website.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen

The words of Frederic Bastiat are always on my mind here.

"In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen."

Here is a question. Does the city of Pittsburgh generate lot's of bad economists or lots of good politicians?

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Okay, so I think every one should know about these things. So heads up, people.
Time to get behind the cause ...

The Women's Law Project and Persad Center present…

An Evening with Evan Wolfson

Thursday, April 19

Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

5941 Penn Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15206

6:30 pm Wine & Hors d'oeuvres Reception

7:00 pm Presentation and Q&A


Evan Wolfson, author of Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry and Founder of Freedom to Marry, returns to Pittsburgh for this very special event. CLE credit available

For more information, or to RSVP, call The Women's Law Project at 412-227-0301 or via email at

The Patron Party

Friday, April 20th - Society for Contemporary Craft, 7 - 10 p.m.
Enjoy a cocktail reception featuring Barefoot Wine, dinner by Kazansky's Catering, and a preview of selected artwork with an award ceremony for prize winning artists.

The Auction

Monday, May 14th - Carnegie Museum of Art
5:30 for Patron Ticket Holders & 6:00 p.m. for General Admission
Featuring live music by the Renaissance City Women's Choir and Ben Opie, delicious food from over 15 area restaurants.

Celebrate Life, Celebrate Art, formerly known as Art for AIDS/Art for Change, is an annual art auction that benefits Persad Center. Over the past 18 years, the Celebrate Life, Celebrate Art benefit auction has generated over $2.7 million for Persad. Featuring a silent and verbal auction with original artwork from over 175 international, national, and regional artists. All proceeds support Persad's unique counseling, wellness, education, and research programs. Special thanks to 2007 sponsors: UPMC, National City Bank, The Giant Eagle Foundation, Ernst & Young, Mellon, Grubb & Ellis, The Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation, Mullen, The William T. Hillman Foundation, Red Bull North America, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Barefoot Wine, Comcast, Fried & Davis, LLC, Images, Pgh City Paper, and WYEP.

Additional information can be found at Persad Center's website

The Poetry of Homestead

You may have heard of John Edgar Wideman's trio of experimental novels, The Homewood Trilogy. Now comes the third in poet Robert Gibb's Homestead Trilogy. The Homestead native and former (third-generation) millworker reads and signs tonight from his latest poetry volume, World Over Water.
>>>>Thursday, April 19th, 7:00pm, Joseph-Beth Booksellers. 2705 E Carson Street, Southside. Free.
>>>>Read Bill O'Driscoll's write up here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hill House Soars

We have been making kites over the month of March in preparation for a flight festival. Sites have been chosen for the day. We'll have kites available for decoration at the sites, so even if you don't already have one, you can pick one up there. Part of the project was conducted with the Community Gallery project although there were additional workshops for kids and adults.

We'll be meeting in the Hill House lobby, where you can pick up kites, snacks and a map to the sites.

I'll bet you're wondering when and where this extravaganza will take place ...

The Hill House Association lobby
1835 Centre Ave
April 21st,
Check in between 11:30am and 12:30pm

The weather forecast is good; sunny and 52, wind at 8mph. I tested this kite and it goes up really easily, I was able to launch mine with no assistance. But hey, if you have your own kite, bring that too!

Spring @Drink and Draw

Drink and Draw was inspiring last night. Renee was amazing, with this really wonderful costume. See for yourself...
Renee as Spring
Paul LeRoy
Steve Dines

And just as a reminder, don't forget the following VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION

News Flash!!
We have scheduled Wednesday dates each month!

Really Big News Flash!
The Mother May I Marathon
May 5, seven hours of drinkin' and drawin'
RSVP to brilloboxdrinkand
Here is a calendar of the upcoming sessions --

4/25/07 Tinsel Garland

5/1/07 Sarah Bauer from Zany Umbrella Circus


5/15/07 Christiane D

5/23/07 Olga -- Burlesque

5/29/07 Erin Carey --

drink and draw
4104 penn ave

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Graffiti shot at Heppenstall, a defunct steel mill located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh

I was flipping through the Post Gazette and ran across this article about a tagger that was arrested and fined for his graffiti at $560,764.50 in property damages. Two points in the article are very interesting. Daniel Montano has a home here and in San Francisco. The other? To quote --

Only 50 percent of graffiti is reported in Pittsburgh. For years, the city was considered a blank slate for many in U.S. graffiti community. Enforcement was considered weak and the abundance of vacant warehouses and cramped hidden alleyways -- many of them in the Strip District -- offered a canvas for many miscreants wielding a spray can.

The Heppenstall complex and the Armstrong Cork buildings are both within walking distance of my home. I have visited both on several occasions. The Armstrong Cork building has been renovated and is now a loft and business complex. It has been getting more and more difficult to get into the Heppenstall complex. Recently, I noticed bulldozers on the site and there has been talk about turning the five or six block strip into a mixed usage complex. Both sites have been well-documented from deterioration to the proliferatrion of graffiti.

There is a huge divide of perception of grafitti, even among those that follow and create it. Most taggers seem to find havens, like these abandoned buildings, to express their creative energy. Some use whatever blank wall is available. I am of the former philosophy, believing that there are enough abandoned buildings to provide blank canvases that taggers can utilize without intruding on vital and operating properties.

Impressions of Flux # 14.

The weather last Saturday was cold and wet, and I'm certain it kept a lot of people from attending Flux #14 in Braddock. That's a bit of a shame because it was just as good as I remembered it being from the last one three years ago. It was a bit of a surprise too, because my only previous experience with this beat up East End neighborhood filled me with sadness and abandon. Take a ride through the heart of the town during the day some time, and you'll see what I mean. It's true inner-city squalor. On my visit there a couple of years ago, there were a few pawn shops and beat-up antique stores still holding on amidst the desolation. Had there not been a truly enticing event, I wouldn't have been tempted to visit Braddock on a Saturday night.

Driving down Braddock Avenue at 9:30 PM, I was struck by the lack of activity. The few people on the street were rushing through the drizzle to the event. They walked with their heads down, afraid that they might make eye contact with some dangerous permanent resident. The Flux logo was projected in large letters on the side of a former bank on Library Street. That throughway was blocked off to traffic, and there were steel barrel fires with shivering art-lovers huddled around them. We entered through the bank entrance, showed our IDs, and paid the $10 admission fee. Walking through this empty center of finance was surreal- like it could be the set for some raving capitalist zombie film. We exited through a side door into an alley, and proceeded through another portal into a derelict church.

The church building housed the main stage, and had a huge sloping wooden floor facing it. There was a table off to one side where you could buy a little platic cup for two bucks, and a long line (that moved fast) to wait in to get the cup filled with beer (Penn Brewery products). Throughout the night that line oddly grew shorter and shorter. I watched some band I've never heard of playing some predictable, if competent, hard pop-rock. Later on I saw the positive, old-school, hip hop act called Lucid Music. I'd seen them before and enjoyed them. They've got flow, and they are good to dance too. The space could have accomodated at least 15 times as many people as were there- which was alright with me because I like my space.

There was art on the side, and in the little hallway passage behind the stage. I really enjoyed a Brian Docherty installation that consisted of multi-colored strings of yarn running in patterns up the wall, some of which were being animated by an electric pulley. It was a nice effect. In back there was a collection of macabre assemblages reminiscent of the Brothers Quay (sorry, I forget the name of the artist, and it's not listed on the official Flux webpage). On the other side of the stage, where you exited back to the main hall, was an interactive video installation that I didn't have much time to process. In the basement was scuptor James Simon's temporary studio, and patrons were randomly throwing balls of clay at an evolving animal figure. There was also installation art by a group referring to themselves as the Hospitable Food project. I'm fond of some of the work of the artists involved, but I have to say that this conglomeration looked to be rather hastily thrown together. Plus it smelled like puke down there, so I beat a fast retreat.

Having drank a good quantity of vitamin water, it was time to seek out a bathroom. In the basement of another building resides the rapidly-approaching-infamous Braddock Elks Club. That's where Mayor John Fetterman holds court every Friday night, welcoming tourists. Last night it was packed with every variety of hipster to be seen around town. In one corner they were selling hot dogs, nachos, ham BBQ, and some very water-logged kielbasa with kraut (guess which I had). At the other end was a fully stocked bar. And yes, there were the bathrooms too, and no line to speak of. Upstairs was another performance space. When I visited they had DJ's and hotties shakin' it on the dance floor. There was art on the walls here, but it was difficult to squeeze through the dancers to get a close look. There is a wide front porch outside, and Bob Johnson was holding court with a video presentation of his new Ravine Cubes project (an evolution from his River Cubes, which consist of refuse pulled from the region's waterways and compacted into 1600 pound squared clumps). On the flatbed of a sturdy-assed pickup was chained the inaugural piece of his latest series, pulled together from the ravine below the Bloomfield Bridge.

Between the Elks and the Church is Dorothy 6- the first floor gallery of the Mayor's residence. They were having a poetry slam there, and I caught a rant about the evils of Walmart. The thing about Flux is that you constantly feel like you are missing something you'd rather see, so you spend a lot of time wandering from one venue to another. Then you need a fill-up on refreshments, or you have to piss, or you need to find one of your misplaced friends. This is both the curse and the blessing of these events, depending upon your transitory mind state. I was anxious to see what the very first branch of the Carnegie Library had to offer.

I'm not certain how much of the library is still in operation, but I have to say it's an amazing place. I slogged up the grand flights of stairs to a basketball court at the very top, and found a huge inflatable sheep by Tom Sarver and Tim Kaulen. I peeped that and noticed that I had just missed some performance piece by a group calling themselves the Dutchmasters. Too bad. I worked my way through another series of entranceways and passages and found myself entering a beautiful, full-sized theater with wraparound balcony. It felt as if I had stepped into the year 1925. There were rows of wooden seats, and I sat in the back and watched some locally-made film projects. I would have liked to stay there for awhile, but it was time to make an honest effort to find the friend that I had come with, and drive home.

Overall I'd say that the event was successful, despite the oppressive weather. Flux has recaptured their status as the premiere art party of Pittsburgh. With the scope and potential of those classic abandoned facilities in Braddock, it is easy to understand why the organizers would make a commitment to hold an event there in each of the next two years. The place is brimming with imposing and eerie flavor. It's truly a feast for the eyes, and provides an ambience that will linger in your memory. I can't wait for the next one. Walking to my car at the end of the night and seeing the flames pouring from the smokestacks of one of the last industrial plants of Pittsburgh, it became possible for me to believe that this neighborhood might just capture the imagination of a new generation of urbanites.

Pittsburgh, Meet Jersey City

Sound familiar?:

From yesterday's USA Today (article by Rick Hampson):
"Once, this was a city of browns and grays. Railroads owned a third of the land, and trains rumbled night and day to the cacophonous riverfront. Factories belched fumes and leaked chemicals. 'Nobody cared,' says Bob Leach, born here in 1937. 'Smoke meant jobs.'

"And those were the good years. Then, in the 1960s, the railroads went broke. Rail yards were abandoned, piers rotted, factories closed. In the 1970s alone, the city lost 14% of its population and about 9% of its jobs.

"Now Jersey City has come back as its own antithesis: clean, green and growing ....

"Once written off by the rest of the nation as another Rust Belt failure, Jersey City is now seen as instructional."

Read More:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Katherine Young - - Gilding Demonstration

Katherine Young's work, which was exhibited at Digging Pitt Gallery for the Lush Life show, mixes the obsessive decoration and fervent craft usually associated with religious art. The explicit sexual imagery calls into question our definitions of sacred and profane. Katherine's work explores feminine gender anxieties provocatively and innocently, with something a bit disturbing underneath. The mixed media manipulation of traditional, domestic, and kitsch elements resonates with the mystical and the mundane, the illogical and the ideal. Seemingly paradoxical, it often encompasses morbid elements of the female experience.

Katherine demonstrated gilding, a technique that she uses to great advantage in her work. This ancient technique has been used to decorate temples and sculpture, imbuing the wooden support with the luster of fine metals. The demonstration was on April 1, 2007.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

WHAT UP, PITTSBURGH? Poet of the People, Martin Espada, read to a room full of history scholars, 4/14/07

Frankly, I was embarrassed. A Puerto Rican poetry student traveled here from Erie to see Martin Espada, one of his very favorite poets, read on Saturday April 14th at Posvar Hall, but almost no one from Pittsburgh’s literary community came. As far as I could tell no one outside of University of Pittsburgh (and some visiting University of Toronto history scholars) attended, and even then the audience was almost exclusively comprised of people who were involved in a History Department symposium to which the poetry reading was connected.

The reading was not sanctioned by the Cultural Trust or the Thomas Merton Center; it did not take place at the Shadow Lounge, or at the Brillobox, or at a Union meeting. But each of those audiences should have been there, and then some. Martin Espada is a poet who looks at history and its lessons (learned and unlearned), who has served as a lawyer for tenants’ right and immigrants’ rights and bilingual education, who grew up poor in a wretched neighborhood in Brooklyn, who has never stopped working for a living, and who writes to include working-class men and women--their resistance and their creativity and their humanity--in the annals of an American history which seeks to exclude them. “Most people are not aware that poetry in this country used to be closely tied to resistance and to a political and working-class spirit, especially in the 30s and 40s,” Espada told us. “That history was suppressed by something called McCarthyism. We are only now beginning to bring those writers and that history out of obscurity.” He marveled at the fact that “the Republican states--the people in power, using language for power--are referring to themselves as Red. It wasn’t so long ago that you could ruin a person’s life by calling him Red. Red was always our side, the color of revolution.”

Espada spoke with some disdain about the poetry that is most lauded today, which is “hip, cynical, detached, or worse, obscure in its meaning.” When asked about his own writing process, he made sure to warn of “anyone who tells you that ‘If you don’t write every day, you’re not a writer.’ If they claim that they get up at 5am every day and write for several hours, they are not telling you the whole story, which is that someone else is cooking for them, cleaning for them, doing their grocery shopping, someone is taking care of them. The vast majority of us will never have that luxury. Most of us, are, in fact, caretakers.” He went on to say that he usually writes on trains and planes, and in the terminals of those trains and planes. “I make a living, not from poetry royalties, but from running workshops and doing readings. That means I’m often traveling.” He said that “being a poet is the art of being a time bandit. This is a mercantile society. But I don’t get paid to write a poem. So I have to steal time from my life to write a poem. I steal time everywhere I can.”

Espada read us beautiful, lyrical, and impassioned poems, poems that held both outrage at injustices and a deep faith in human resilience, in vitality. Espada was a talented performer of his own poems, which often almost-literally sang off the page in his baritone English and Spanish. He read to us of his father, arrested in 1950s Mississippi for not moving to the back of the bus; he read to us of the Vietnam veteran-poets whose warnings about the nature of war were not heeded;he read to us of “Local 100,” the 43 union members who died working at Windows on the World, the World Trade Center, on 9/11; he read of the little-known Palm Sunday Massacre in Ponce, Puerto Rico; of the first 9/11, in 1973--the murdering, torturing, Nixon-sanctioned coup in Chile; of digging latrines in Nicaragua and watching a woman wash her dress and herself at the same time, for scarcity of running water. He spoke of the importance of bearing witness, the importance of not forgetting what came before, and the importance in his writing of combining memory and experience with analysis and meaning-making. “I have seen people live through powerful experiences, and not grasp what they mean, not understand where they fit into the scheme of things.”

When asked if he ever gets in trouble for the strong political stance he takes in his writing, Espada said no, that he “enjoys the freedom” of saying what he wants because no one is much threatened by poetry in America anymore. “The best place to hide a poem is between the pages of a book.”

On the other hand, Espada was once commissioned to write a poem for NPR. The finished work was written about an unnamed prostitute who was then the latest witness to come forward in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s innocence. The poem was banned from airplay.

Espada further spoke of the many people who had told him at his readings, “Poetry saved my life.” “And they mean it quite literally. People who were living as alcoholics, as addicts, people in prison, people living self-destructively, people living in hell and headed, literally, to an early grave, have told me that they discovered poetry, and that wanting to read it, and write it, and share it with other people, turned their life around. It made them want to live.” He shared a story of a poetry reading he gave in L.A., “A large man came up to me, a Puerto Rican covered in tattoos. He was intimidating--he was bigger than me! Then he told me, ‘Your poetry saved my life.’ He told me that he had been in prison, and he found one of my books. He said it gave him hope, and turned him around. Now he was studying poetry in college and planning to teach it in prisons and elsewhere. But the different thing in this story is that, he started to thank me, and then he began to cry. He broke down in deep, loud, racking sobs, in the middle of a crowded room! I took him aside where we could talk more privately, and he apologized for crying. I told him, ‘No, I am a poet. To a poet, tears are coins of gold! I’ve hit the slot machine right now.’ ” Espada continued, “There are people who are invisible in our history, who desperately need a mirror held up to them. I try in my poems to be the mirror that shows them that what they are doing, these working people all over the world, has creativity and dignity.”

So, Pittsburgh artists, event organizers, writers and poetry audiences—-was this low turn-out (among the non-history majors) a result of target marketing, or a ghettoized attendance? Was it too much to cross a bridge or a mountain, or just too much to cross the threshhold of perceived sub-divisions? Is Pittsburgh just big enough for its writers and audience of literature to be this complacent when such a relevant voice, in the prime of his creativity, comes through to speak and read? Is it some lack of communal forum, that there is not really a BUZZ off campus? I must admit, I’m truly baffled.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don't Miss This Poetry Reading

Attention poets, writers, readers, spoken word artists, lyricists, afficianados of cross-culture, audiences who believe in supporting out-of-towners, Union members, New Yorker subscribers, literature lovers, star fuckers, and ex-pat Brooklynites!! Martin Espada, one of the most passionate and articulate living poets, will be in Pittsburgh to read this Saturday on Pitt’s Oakland campus, for free!

Born in Brooklyn in 1957, much of Espada’s work is drawn from his Puerto Rican heritage and his work experiences, which range from bouncer to tenant lawyer.

Find a selection of his poems here:

Martin Espada Reading: Saturday, April 14th, 5:30-7:00 pm, 2500 Posvar Hall, University of Pittsburgh, Oakland. Free and open to the public. Contact Professor Marcus Rediker for more details:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Community Gallery project in the Hill District reception

We had the reception for the Community Gallery project on March 31. The projects were on display in the lobby. It was a lovely afternoon, with children and artists popping in and out. Terri Baltimore was there, along with Lissa Rosenthal from Pittsburgh Celebrates. The post from the kick off is here.

Kites from the project with Deanna Mance. For all of you kite enthusiasts out there, join us for the Soars event on April 21. I'll be making an announcement about this soon, but...
April 21
Hill House Association
1835 Centre Ave

Check in: 11:30am - 12:30pm
pick up kites and maps to the flight sites. Refreshments provided

We have three sites in the Hill district that we have designated as flight zones. And if you don't already have a kite, we will have some available for you at the Hill House.
These are from the assemblage project that Christine Bethea did with the students.
Some of the visitors enjoying the display.
A very crowded lobby! Everybody loves those giant puppets

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Closing's Tonight

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review has listed the closing in their top picks for the weekend. Check it out here.

Closing reception for Lush Life, Visual Abstraction and Regenesis

April 7, 6-9PM

Lush Life - Side I --more information
Paul LeRoy
Todd Pinkham
Jessica Sommer
Katherine Young

Visual Grammar: Five Approaches to Abstraction-- more information
Curated by Gary Jurysta
Charles Andresen

Glen Brunken

Joren Dykstra

Patrick Schmidt

Regenesis: David Grim @Digging Pitt Too-- more information
David Grim

Friday, April 06, 2007

Closing reception for Lush Life, Visual Abstraction and Regenesis

The Pittsburgh Tribune Review has listed the closing in their top picks for the weekend. Check it out here.

Closing reception for Lush Life, Visual Abstraction and Regenesis

April 7, 6-9PM

Lush Life - Side I --more information
Paul LeRoy
Todd Pinkham
Jessica Sommer
Katherine Young

Visual Grammar: Five Approaches to Abstraction-- more information
Curated by Gary Jurysta
Charles Andresen

Glen Brunken

Joren Dykstra

Patrick Schmidt

Regenesis: David Grim @Digging Pitt Too-- more information
David Grim

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Manchester Craftsmen's Guild is an arts organization whose purpose is almost solely educational. And especially for youth. They have a beautiful facility in Manchester on Pittsburgh's Northside. They have been producing student arts programs for well over thirty years. I went to classes there when I was in high school. I can't begin to express my gratitude to this organization or to the instructor that mentored and encouraged me to pursue the arts.

The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild exhibits student work in a small gallery off the lobby of a building on Penn Avenue in downtown. This past Friday, the Guild opened Questy Quest, a combination of performance and static arts where passersby were encouraged to kill the beast with sporks. It was wonderfully riotous.

The detritus from the destruction, as well as the video, are on display through April 15.

QUESTY QUEST The Questiest Quest Ever Requested
A Mentors & Makers Exhibition at 800 Penn Avenue
March 23 - April 15

Vanessa German @ Drink and Draw

The lovely Vanessa German posed for the drawers at brillobox on April 3, murmuring poems and lounging in a beautiful dress on crushed red elvet.
You might have missed this one, but there's always something else coming up. Check in for updates.

free snacks & coffee
three dollar well drinks and microbrews

News Flash!!
We have scheduled Wednesday dates each month!

Really Big News Flash!
The Mother May I Marathon
May 5, seven hours of drinkin' and drawin'
RSVP to brilloboxdrinkand
Here is a calendar of the upcoming sessions --
4/17/07 Renee Ickes

4/25/07 Tinsel Garland

5/1/07 Sarah Bauer from Zany Umbrella Circus


5/15/07 Christiane D

5/23/07 Olga -- Burlesque

5/29/07 Erin Carey --

drink and draw
4104 penn ave